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WRITTEN REVIEW: Ban the Sadist Videos!

Violence is in our nature as a species. We fight wars, brutalize our peers, bully each other, the list goes on and on. We are a violent society as a whole. So what do we do when we aren’t being violent? Well we go the movie theater and watch violent films. It’s just what we do.

With that being said, it’s natural for people to wonder what drives people to violence. Of course, this always leads us to the usual suspects of film, music, video games, and just media in general.

While we’ve always had our share of moral crusaders here in the Good Ol’ USA, our neighbors across the pond in the UK pretty much have us beat when it comes to trying to save the youth from themselves and the evils of violent films.

In the two-part documentary, Ban the Sadist Videos! director David Gregory, who is known for a multitude of film documentaries, shows us a modern day witch-hunt against video store owners and distributors in the UK during the video player hey day from the the 1980s and early 90s and the so-called Video Nasties that put the island on high alert.

The 1960s and 1970s were the apex for schlocky gore, sex, and every other taboo in horror films. From The Driller Killer to Zombie social avengers like Mary Whitehouse and The Daily Mail made it their job to assure that the youth weren’t corrupted by the ultra violence, sex, and gore that ran rampant throughout these films.

While many of these films were released uncut in the theater, home video was a different animal all together. Home video made many of these films available to children, and of course this had to be stopped.

With the passage of the Video Recordings Act in 1984, fines and jail time were possible penalties for video store owners who peddled films that were blacklisted by the moral majority in England, led by figures like Whitehouse, Member of Parliament David Alton, and James Ferman, the head of the British Board of Film Classification, for several years.

Following two high-profile crimes, like the Hungerford Massacre and the kidnapping and murder of two-year-old James Bulger by two ten-year olds, the restrictions would have become stricter with the passage of the Alton Act, but it was later pulled. However, watchdogs were still on high alert and endless cuts were made to films coming to the UK for home consumption.

I guess thinking about it we do have a lot of moral defenders here in the US; from holding rallies where people step all over rap and heavy metal tapes and CDs, and the constant banter of talking heads and why video games drive people to deviant behavior and why excessive violence on film is corrupting our youth, our First Amendment always comes through and protects our rights to do what we want. It’s easy to lose sight of how good we have it in this country, whereas in the UK, while they do enjoy nearly all the same freedoms we enjoy, there are a lot of gray areas, especially with Freedom of Speech, hence the hysteria and the endless censorship of film for nearly 30 years.

Imagine being a video store owner and having films confiscated and taken for evidence and threatened with fines and possible jail time for owning a copy of Faces of Death or Dario Argento’s Inferno, that’s coming out of Nazi Germany or another fascist regime. No wonder the Sex Pistols were so pissed off about their government and the way they treated their “subjects”.

Ban the Sadist Videos! is a great watch to compare and contrast how we see and consume films here in America versus the issues that British citizens were dealing with for a long time. Sure, banning these films opened up a lovely black market for video collectors and sellers, but having to deal these films behind closed doors while fearing a raid by the local MP I’m sure was a nerve-racking experience for buyers and sellers alike.

While censorship has reared its ugly head numerous times here in America, there’s never been a fear of downright censoring or banning art, even if it can be taken out of context, and with the emergence of a more focused P.C. society and everything being watched by the Internet, it would be interesting to see if something like this happened in this day and age, how would people take it and how would it be discussed over Twitter and Reddit. Imagine the madness!


★ ★ ★



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